A Few More Words from Roger Zelazny: On Ellison, Delany, and Brust

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author. Previously, Zelazny spoke about his own writing style; today Krulik curates some of Zelazny’s thoughts on his fellow authors…

I was a program participant at Lunacon in Tarrytown, New York in March of 1989. It was a memorable convention and one well-attended. One of its major events took place in the grand ballroom of the hotel at 7PM on Saturday night. Prime time. Over two hundred people filled the hall. It was a one-on-one interview with Writer Guest-of-Honor Roger Zelazny, and I was the interviewer.

Roger came down the aisle to rousing applause. I was already seated but I stood to greet him and we shook hands. When the two of us settled in at a cloth-covered table on the stage, I addressed the large audience. “We are here to have a small, intimate conversation with Roger Zelazny,” I said. “And you are all eavesdroppers.”

 

Harlan Owes Me a Subscription

Prepared with a list for Roger, I planned on asking questions that Zelazny fans would want to know. As a fan myself, I always wondered how well Roger knew his contemporaries of the “New Wave” in science fiction. Did he count authors like Samuel R. Delany and Harlan Ellison, for instance, among his friends?

Here’s what he had to say:

The first time I met Harlan Ellison we were both unpublished young punks in Cleveland, Ohio. A girl I knew at my high school was a cub reporter on a local paper. She talked her boss into letting her cover the World Science Fiction Convention in 1955 which was being held in Cleveland. She knew that I wanted to write science fiction and she asked me if I would care to come with her one evening to see what a science fiction convention was like. She told me she met a young fellow named Harlan Ellison who had said he was going to be a great writer someday also. She introduced us and told us that we had both said we were going to be great writers someday.

Harlan sold me a subscription to a fanzine called Dimensions on the spot. I never did see a copy of it. Then I didn’t see Harlan again for eleven years.

We were both great writers at that point. That was back at another WorldCon in Cleveland again; 1966’s Tricon. I reminded him that I hadn’t seen any copies of Dimensions in front of many witnesses; at which time, he refunded my two dollars. So I always felt that Harlan Ellison was an honorable man.

—Lunacon, Tarrytown, NY, 1989

 

Zelany? Delazny?

What would a writer of Roger’s stature do when a fan mistakenly hands him another author’s book to sign? That had happened to Roger more than once. This was how he responded to the question:

It was at that same convention, Tricon in 1966, in a Polynesian restaurant that Samuel R. Delany and I met.  We sat at a table together and talked about music and science fiction and food. We were both familiar with each other’s work. Neither of us sold the other a subscription to a fanzine or anything the way Harlan Ellison had when we first met.

I never knew Delany that well. We never lived in the same town so we rarely had occasion to get to know each other. Whenever we’re in the same town for a convention we’d get together and compare notes.

The confusion people have about our names is a funny visual thing. Delazny? Zelany? For a time I was given one of Delany’s books to autograph – The Einstein Intersection – most frequently. The one he was most often given to sign was Dream Master. We finally made an agreement to authorize each other to autograph those particular works for the other. I told him I was willing to autograph The Ballad of Beta 2, but the gentleman changed his mind. My apologies for signing that one in his stead. But Delany said Intersection was okay and I told him the same regarding Dream Master.

That reminds me of another time like that. I was getting a lot of Delany books to sign at WorldCon in Toronto in 1973. It seems to have been a sort of high point of the confusion between my name and Delany’s.

At that convention, a man came up to me at a party and said, “You are the most wonderful writer in the entire area. I really appreciate your characterizations and backgrounds, and your style is also superb.”

He told me other beautiful things like that. At the end of about ten minutes, he rose and said, “Well, I’ve been keeping you, but it’s really been fine talking to you, Mr. Silverberg.”

—Lunacon, Tarrytown, NY, 1989

 

Helping a Young Writer (in Hell)

Roger was instrumental in helping me to publish my second book, The Complete Amber Sourcebook, with Avon Books, his own publisher. While I worked on that project, I sent him my finished chapters and he responded with suggestions by mail. On two occasions, he telephoned me to offer details that he had not written into his novels.

Roger cared enough to help when a new author’s writing piqued his interest. That was just the way he was. At a convention in Tampa, Florida in 1985, he recalled helping out a young writer who had been brought to his attention, someone at the beginning of a very promising career. Here’s Roger, in his own words:

Steven Brust was just starting out, and his publisher sent me his novel Jhereg just to read and see if I cared to give them a publication quote to promote the book. Along with Jhereg, they included his second book, Yendi. I read them both and liked them.

When Brust heard I’d commented on Jhereg, he dropped me a line thanking me. Then he sent me a copy of the manuscript of his latest novel, To Reign in Hell. He wrote, “Ace purchased this one but, in the meantime, it’s going into a limited edition by a local outfit called Steel Dragon Press. Ace felt that it was all right to use the quote you had given for Jhereg, but I don’t feel quite right about it. If you have time to read To Reign in Hell, I’d appreciate your taking a look. This is an extra copy. You can throw it away. If you don’t have the time, I’ll understand.”

So I took a look at the first few pages and got into it. Instead of giving them a comment, I liked this stuff so much I decided to write something at greater length and help the guy out. I wrote the introduction that was included in To Reign in Hell completely unsolicited. I’d never done that before, but I was particularly taken by his writing.

Most writers have only one strong point, but Brust has several. I like his dialogue and descriptions. He has a sense of humor that is similar to my own. It’s true that someone who might appeal to me most is a writer who sounds like me.

In fact, he called me up the other day. He works with computers, and he said he’s quitting his job. He’s leaving in a couple of weeks to write full time. I hope he makes it.

—Necronomicon, Tampa, FL, 1985

zelazny-biographyTheodore Krulik’s encyclopedia of Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels, The Complete Amber Sourcebook, published in 1996 by Avon Books, is still the most exhaustive reference book on that revered series. Through his literary biography Roger Zelazny, published by Frederick Ungar Inc. in 1986, Krulik made accessible to the enthusiast the famed author’s personal concerns. For the first time, aficionados discovered the sources in Zelazny’s own life that inspired his writing. Other literary work includes essays on Richard Matheson in Critical Encounters II for Ungar, edited by Tom Staicar, and on James Gunn’s The Immortals in Death and the Serpent for Greenwood Press, edited by Carl Yoke and Donald Hassler. As a member of the Science Fiction Research Association, Krulik wrote a regular column for their newsletter in the 1980s and 90s entitled “The Shape of Films To Come.” Currently, he is writing a novel about a science fiction writer who gains remarkable powers to see into the minds of others. Krulik hopes to complete World Shaper by the end of 2017.

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